An increasing number of cyber security professionals worldwide are convinced of the importance of gender equality in the space and acknowledge the challenges that diversity and inclusion might face nowadays. In other words, the cyber industry believes in the idea that women and men should have equal opportunities and should embrace successful careers in cyber. However, although those statements seem like an achievement, it is based on the number of initiatives driven by certain organizations, and by diversity associations. Reality shows that not all encouraging male individuals understand what exactly diversity means, and how inclusion can be achieved.
This brings a point … How do you achieve the change, if you do not understand it ?
One of the most controversial implementations for gender diversity is quotas. The first gender quota was implemented in 1991 in Argentina - the Ley de Cupos. It has been first deployed as a remedy to eliminate patriarchy in politics and attain representative equality between the sexes.
Over the last 15 years, Belgium has pioneered with a legislation governing progressively impressive quotas. The Tobback- Smet Act led to a rise in the percentage of female members of parliament from 16% previously to 25% in 1999. Since then, the percentage of female representatives has continuously grown further, to reach 43.3% in 2019. Other countries like Sweden with 47.3% and Finland with 41.5% of women in low house of representatives have followed the right initiatives to increase the presence of women in the political space.
➡️ Source: http://archive.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm
At present, 24 countries have some form of a gender quota in governments. As per an article on politics, and gender diversity, Catalina Uribe Burcher of the Institute for Electoral Assistance in Stockholm confirms that quotas can generate a ripple effect. “So, when women manage in some countries also to gain those positions of power and decision-making, it just not only affects the political landscape in the country but the whole perception of women in general in all other fields of life.”
Gender equality is not just a problem that affects politics, but concerns the business world, too, and concerns cyber security in particular.
The implementation of quotas has been criticised all over the world, and the cyber security space is no exception. The main concern was and is, whether the quotas bring meaningful and real equality, or does that impact negatively on the overall gender diversity objective.
With the polemics received worldwide, quotas’ implementation should be deployed carefully, keeping in mind the ultimate goal of creating true equality. Therefore, it is highly important to find out how effective gender quotas are in achieving meaningful change for women, in particular in cyber security.
Christine Lagarde, French politician, economist and lawyer serving as President of the European Central Bank since November 2019, realized that quotas were necessary several years ago, while still in France, when she began holding meetings with the CEOs of France’s biggest corporations. She questioned each CEO whether any women were on their boards of directors. “They all said no,” she said. “So I said, ‘Why is that?’ They said well, you know, we are making an effort…”
Then, in in 2011, the French parliament ratified the Zimmerman-Copé law, setting limits for a minimum female representation in business. The law demanded at least 40% representation of each gender.
Christine mentioned that implementing quotas would ensure a faster and quicker change. Magda Chelly, Managing Director of Responsible Cyber and CISO on Demand, discussed the topic with Fanny Forgeau, COO at Yogosha. They both agreed that quotas are necessary to achieve a quicker change and make a forced impact. Nonetheless, quotas by themselves are not enough and if not implemented properly might lead to a backlash and worsen women’s credibility as professionals.
Quotas help resolve women’s under-representation in leadership positions and make it entirely natural for women to take up executive roles in politics, business and academia. However, quotas don’t always translate into more power and benefits for women. Opponents argue that they are a tick-the-box exercise and can lead to female being chosen for their diversity rather than their skills.
Yet, studies showed that boosting the number of women on boards is beneficial. They have demonstrated that diversity on boards improves decision-making and profits, yet women are often not considered for boards solely for the reason that they are not part of the old boys’ club.
Therefore, several female leaders agreed that setting up women with quotas might lead them to failure if they are not supported for success. For example, businesses should prepare women for board positions. For a first-time board that onboards the first women, the risks of failure are high; involving tokenism, and stereotyping. In these circumstances, the woman will face challenges to integrate. The woman should be considered as another board member and not just a woman’s voice. Given unconscious biases and existing challenges, companies implementing quotas should facilitate a join process and an inclusion plan. Companies must consider more than just how to appoint more women onto their boards. Indeed, the focus must shift to how to integrate them, to reap the full benefits of gender diversity.
Yogosha is pushing equal opportunities for both genders. However, Fanny is a true believer that women should have more support and be encouraged by other women to reach their true potential. By providing new opportunities through the #cyversity campaign, Fanny is hoping to achieve 15% of female hackers, provided with an inclusive environment and assessed on their technical skills on the same level as all candidates.
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